Animato! article...first of a bunch...

From: chance <>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 07:30:14 -0700

As promised (because so far exactly 11 of our readers have managed to
get the article), here's the first bit of Mark Lungo's article. When it's finished,
you'll have a bunch of nifty background information and a complete episode
guide - complete with letter grades - and margin kibbitzes by Lance Falk,
"SwatKats" design team head.

"Hanna-Barbera's flying, fighting felines are new cult favorites"

by Mark Lungo

You think living in New York or Los Angeles is tough? You should try
Megakat City. This all-feline metropolis is constantly besieged by an
endless parade of supervillains, monsters and alien invaders. The city's
paramilitary police force, the Enforcers, led by the competent but small-
minded Commander Feral, is rarely effective against these menaces. Even
the two most powerful people in the city, Mayor Manx and Deputy Mayor
Callie Briggs, are often personally threatened by these powerful foes. But
there's no need to fear, at least as long as Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong,
two ex-Enforcers turned mechanics-cum-junkmen, are around. When the
city is endangered, Clawson and Furlong hurry to the hangar hidden beneath
Jake and Chance's Garage and assume their secret identities of Razor and
T-Bone, two daring and resourceful fighter pilots known as the SWAT Kats.
Our heroes use their courage, their training, their wits, and a variety of high
tech weapons and vehicles built from the military salvage they collect (most
notably their heavily armed fighter jet, the Turbo Kat) to defeat the evildoers
and restore peace to Megakat City -- at least until the next episode.

"SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron" was originally created by the brothers
Christian and Yvon Tremblay, two self-trained artists from Montreal. They
initially conceived the SWAT Kats as two feline fighter pilots called "Chuck"
and "Yeager" (after the legendary test pilot immortalized in "The Right Stuff")
who fought supervillains and giant monsters and were friends with a police-
woman. The brothers sold this idea to Hanna-Barbera, where a creative team
headed by producer Davis Doi, story editor Glenn Leopold, design
coordinator/writer Lance Falk (all veterans of previous H-B series) and
director Robert Alvarez ( a Disney TV alumnus who directed every episode
of "SWAT Kats") was assembled. The Tremblays, Doi, Leopold and
various H-B art staffers held a series of developmental meetings, during which
the SWAT Kats names were changed (T-Bone was almost called "Doomsday"),
the policewoman was dropped (temporarily), and a new supporting cast was
created. The Tremblays were kept on as creative consultants, and they
continued to do artwork for the show.

When the show's first 13 episodes began production, the animation duties were
assigned to two Asian studios: Japan's Mook Co. Ltd. (who worked on four
first season episodes: "The Pastmaster Always Rings Twice", "Night of the
Dark Kat", "Metal Urgency" and "Katastrophe") and Taiwan's Hanho Heung-Up
Co. Ltd. (who did the rest of the first season). "Secret Files of the SWAT Kats",
a brief segment at the end of each episode, gave the audience information on the
SWAT Kats, their weaponry and the villains they faced (as read by veteran
announcer Ernie Anderson).

Matt Muhoberac, John Zuker, Randall Crissman & Nick Brown contributed
heavy metal-tinged theme and background music. (Crissman and Brown weren't
credited on the first four episodes.) The first season theme includes harmonized
guitar work influenced by Brian May of Queen. (Zuker: "They played some of the
'Flash Gordon soundtrack' that Brian May and Queen [composed]. [They wanted]
the very heroic, anthem-like, but rock&roll kind of guitar that Brian May is known

SWAT Kats debuted on TBS cable and broadcast syndication as part of "The
Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera"'s 1993-94 lineup, along with another new
creator-driven series, Donovan Cook's "Two Stupid Dogs", and reruns of
"The Jetsons" and "Dastardly and Muttley".

The SWAT Kats frequently triumphed against overwhelming odds, and so did
the show that featured them. Despite intense competition (especially from the
800-pound gorilla called "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers") and less-than-ideal
timeslots, SWAT Kats' first season was successful enough to warrant new
episodes for 1994-95. Although most of the production crew stayed on, some
changes were made. The producers of SWAT Kats were so impressed by
Mook's animation that the company was hired to do the entire second season.
The Tremblay's policewoman became Lt. Felina Feral (the Commander's niece),
who was finally introduced as a major supporting character.

A new opening sequence was created, complete with an even harder-edged theme
song by Muhoberac, Zuker, Crissman & Brown. (Zuker: "As opposed to Queen,
they wanted more Metallica and AC/DC...[something that would] still be melodic
and something memorable, but a little more agressive.") The new opening replaced
the old on some first season reruns. The voice actors' credits, which had always
been individualized, now matched the actors' names to their characters. But not
all the changes were good. After the first two episodes of the new season, the
"Secret Files" were replaced by "Hanna-Barbera Video Trading Cards", which
were mostly assemblages of clips from various H-B series (an interesting exception
featured documentary shots of H-B employees at work, including SWAT Kats
voice artist Lori Allen). Two of the half-hour episodes were divided into two
11-minute segments (a la "Gummi Bears"), but the short format made it difficult
to introduce any complexity into the stories, and the result was a failed experiment.

Then came the unprecedented announcement that SWAT Kats was ceasing
production -- even though only 10 of the 13 episodes scheduled for the
second year had been completed! Many of the artists working on the show
were laid off. As for the last three episodes, they're in limbo: the scripts and
storyboards are finished and the dialogue has been recorded, but Hanna-Barbera
hasn't said when (or if) they'll ever reach the animation stage. The reason given
for the cancellation was that SWAT Kats wasn't selling any merchandise.
However, there's almost no SWAT Kats merchandise available (although an
action figure line and a video game is scheduled for release later this year). It
isn't the function of this article to comment on the skills of the Hanna-Barbera
marketing staff, or the logic of punishing the SWAT Kats artists for mistakes
made by other people. Besides, SWAT Kats is hardly the first show to suffer
because of corporate mishandling -- just ask any fan of "Star Trek" or "The
Outer Limits". But just as those two classics have returned, we can only hope
that someday Hanna-Barbera will revive SWAT Kats just as it's revived
so many of its other series.

So why is SWAT Kats worth reviving? Why does it have a devoted cult
following among adult animation fans? Why is it widely regarded as Hanna-
Barbera's best action/adventure series since the original "Jonny Quest" and
"Space Ghost"? And why take the time and trouble to write an article about it?
Here are the reasons:

______________________whew...end of part one___________________

  "I'm on the Internet...sometimes every day. I use it to plug in and feel the
   pulse of my audience. I think most producers used to wait for the fan mail
   to roll in. You don't need to do that anymore. There's instant communication
   with your audience. -- The "X-Files" Chris Carter
Received on Wed Sep 27 1995 - 10:35:25 PDT

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